Consumerism – or the notion that buying makes us happy – is one of sustainability’s greatest enemies. For example, fast fashion has hurt the environment so much so that the United Nations declared it an “environmental emergency” back in 2018. But this impact isn’t just unique to the fashion industry. Groceries also have this problem. In fact, reports show that grocery retailers make up at least 10% of all food waste in the US. That’s 19.5 billion kilograms.
Fortunately, more and more companies have shifted their focus to reducing their environmental impact and are discovering the profitability involved when they put sustainability measures front and center. But contrary to popular belief, sustainability isn’t just about reducing waste – it goes deeper than that. It has introduced a huge demand for graduates studying online sustainability programs, who understand how utilizing renewable energy, reducing the size and volume of packaging materials, promoting healthier conditions, decreasing total shipping tonnage, and lowering energy use can help businesses grow. In fact, the best green jobs are often the highest-paid – proven by how it’s big businesses like Google, Apple, and Starbucks that have committed to sustainable business practices.
Of course, your grocery shop doesn’t have to be a conglomerate to be sustainable. Here are a couple of sustainable practices that every grocery should adopt.
Promote energy-efficiency in your store
It’s no secret that grocery shops use a lot of electricity – from heating and ventilation to lights and other equipment. As such, you have to ensure that your business is saving energy across all aspects. For example, make sure that all your lights are LED. LED lights use less energy, which is good for both the environment and your budget. It’s also best if you regularly maintain your HVAC systems. This ensures that their machines don’t get overwhelmed, and use energy efficiently.
Be smart about selling your fresh goods
Much of the food that is wasted by grocery stores is fresh produce like meat, fruits, and vegetables. There are two main reasons:
1) Fresh produce is expensive, and
2) Grocers tend to ignore the “ugly” looking items, in fear that they’re not as fresh as the others
Fortunately, both are solvable. To get them off the shelves, consider selling produce at discounted prices, especially if shoppers are looking to buy them in bulk. Next, sell your “ugly” goods to companies like Misfits Market. They purposefully buy deformed (but quality) produce and re-sell them at discounted prices.
Normalize sell-by dates
Currently, no federal law is requiring companies to list sell-by dates on their products. A sell-by date is useful, as this tells shop owners when the food item is at its freshest. In an ideal world, every company offers sell-by dates. However, for variables such as this, you have to take things into your own hands. Find out how long the produce stays fresh for and impose your own sell-by dates. The longer they stay in your store, the less fresh they’ll be. And when customers see that, they won’t buy them.
Refrain from using plastic packaging
Every year, people add over 8 million tons of plastic to the ocean, and more are found in other bodies of water, landfills, and even sewers. So if you can avoid it, only provide plastic bags if your customers don’t have eco-friendly bags with them. Encourage your shoppers to bring a green bag or switch out the plastic for paper. Although paper bags are easily torn, you can also opt for compostable plastic bags. These are made out of corn, potato, and other kinds of consumable goods.
There are many ways for grocery shops to contribute to sustainability, from clearing out your produce to ensuring that your machines remain energy-efficient. But this battle is not yours alone. Makeena is building a growing community of sustainable businesses that you can support.
Contributed by JBotto